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The Politics of Everything

In September of last year, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat wrote a column that garnered a lot of news. Entitled “Clinton’s Samantha Bee Problem,” he lifted up Bee of an example of how the entertainment industry has gone from being slightly left-leaning to becoming full on liberal activists. He explained that where once there was a David Letterman or Jay Leno offering mostly apolitical monologues, there are now late night hosts that are basically de facto explanatory journalists:

Douthat continues by saying this sets up a false sense of strength on the part of liberals, who live in their own bubble unaware that the other 300 million or so Americans might not feel the same way they do:

I’ve been thinking about this as we face yet another attempt by the GOP to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Back in the Spring, late-night host Jimmy Kimmel shared the story of his recently born son who needed heart surgery. He used this as a reason to keep the Affordable Care Act. He started a conversation with Louisiana Senator Bill Cassidy on the issue. Now that Cassidy is behind a health care bill that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and give less health care, Kimmel has responded by calling the Senator a liar. He is now using his show as a platform to oppose the Graham-Cassidy Bill going as far as giving phone numbers of Senators to call. Politics and entertainment are now entertwined:

Now, you should know that I am opposed to the Graham-Cassidy Bill. Being right of center, I don’t think Graham and Cassidy are trying to be mean-spirited, but they are part of a problem in the modern GOP; a party that is woefully out of step with the larger public and really misunderstanding the conservatism of Ronald Reagan.

That said, I for one am getting tired of entertainers becoming more and more politicized. I’m not saying that they shouldn’t have political opinions, but there is something polarizing about Kimmel’s fight. He, along with others entertainers like Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers vent anger against Trump, which tends to say to the wider society that said entertainer is on the liberal side. This kind of willingness to bear ideological identities started in earnest under President Obama, when liberal entertainers glomed on to the President. Now that Trump is the Commander in Chief, enterainment is becoming part of the resistance.

There is a sense that these entertainers only belong to half of the country and not all of it. It might make my liberal friends excited, but the thing is, having one more entertainer speaking condescendingly to conservatives means that you lose someone that could be persuaded.

But the other part of this is that it would be nice to have places in our society that aren’t touched by politics. The problem today is that more and more, politics seems to invade areas of our life that should be politics free most of the time. We can’t watch the Grammys or the MTV Video Awards without some reference to politics. As much as I support transgender Americans serving in the military, I was bothered that the MTV Video Awards made a statement in favor of transgender soldiers. I didn’t watch it, but there was a feeling wishing that there was less partisan politics in our entertainment.

But there is also a danger here for liberals. As comedians become less middle-of-the-road and more partisan, they risk causing the half the public that doesn’t agree with them to make their feelings known at the ballot box. Douthat again:

This is where I insert that tired phrase, “This is why Trump won.” People don’t want to be told they are bad people for not thinking the same way. They don’t want an angry comedian yelling on the TV. Kimmel’s rants might have a positive effect in stopping Graham-Cassidy, but they also help lead to the breakdown of our common civic life. Writer Damon Linker explains on how this breakdown of the common good has consequences:

I really hope that Graham-Cassidy doesn’t pass because it’s a bad bill. But I also wish that entertainers like Kimmel would stick to being comedians. In these divisive times, we need to be able to laugh. We have enough anger, thanks.

Written by

A middle-aged pastor living in Minneapolis. I write about politics, religion, sexuality, and autism. https://www.dennislsanders.net/

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